For Better or Worse: Marriage Choices in Asylum Trajectories of LGBTQ West Africans
(Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology / Ecole Normale Supérieure)
Benjamin Lawrance (University of Arizona)
Paper short abstract:
Situated at the intersection of historical and anthropological scholarship on migration, queer refuge and precarity, we advance the concept of "queer mobile marriage" as an example of LGBTQ African reappropriation of heteropatriarchal institutions in contexts of extreme personal adversity.
Paper long abstract:
How do marriage choices influence LGBTQ West Africans' mobilities? Using a hybrid biographical and intersectional approach centered on gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic class, we compare the life experiences of two cohorts of LGBTQ Africans. The first are West African asylum seekers in Europe and North America for whom historian Lawrance personally provided expert testimony as part of an asylum appeal. The second group comprises Gambian and Senegalese would-be refugees whom anthropologist Menetrier encountered in Senegal and Mauritania, while they were awaiting news of potential resettlement in the Global North. We ask to what extent their marriage choices reflect strategies of mobility within Africa as well as how they are conditioned by LGBTQ individuals' knowledge of refugee and asylum procedures. The choice of an opposite-sex union on the African continent may provide temporary security in-country or deflect state or family-based violence and victimization. The decision to be in a same-sex union on the other hand, while representing a higher risk commitment, may open the door to new and creative pathways to protection.
We detail how LGBTQ West Africans endure scrutiny when they choose to marry, and proffer tentative explanation as to why they create particular family structures in precarious contexts of extreme personal adversity. Situated at the interdisciplinary intersection of historical, anthropological, and sociological scholarship on migration, queer refuge and precarity, we advance the concept of "queer mobile marriage" as an example of LGBTQ African reappropriation of heteropatriarchal institutions in contexts of extreme personal adversity.
Crossing boundaries, crossing borders: subversion, disruption and LGBTQ migration on the African continent